Forty years ago tonight, the Los Angeles Lakers’ fabled 33-game winning streak was ended by the Milwaukee Bucks. No great surprise there — the Bucks were the NBA’s defending champions, they were headed toward a 63-19 record (not far off L.A.’s 69-13), the game was in Milwaukee and Bucks coach Larry Costello had circled the date on his squad’s calendar. “We’ll beat them,” Costello said. “We’re the champs and all they have is the streak.”
Final that night: Milwaukee 120, Los Angeles 104. The Lakers still went on to win their first championship of the Los Angeles era, beating the Bucks in the Western Conference finals (4-2) en route.
Oddly, it was the start of a trend that lives all these years later, revealed again with the 2011 Finals. If you have a winning streak snapped after 12 victories or more, you want it snapped by Milwaukee, according to the Elias Sports Bureau and ESPN Stats and Research from more than a year ago.
There might be a ring in it for you.
Consider: Two seasons after the Lakers’ gaudy streak, Boston starts strong and reels off 12 in a row. No threat to the Lakers’ mark, obviously, but impressive all the same. The Celtics roll into Milwaukee — and lose 117-93. Come the Finals, though, Boston is the team claiming the title in seven games over Costello, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and company.
In 1983, Philadelphia lugs a 14-game streak into Milwaukee Arena on Jan. 23 and suffers its only defeat in a span of 21 games. The 76ers blow through the playoffs with a 12-1 mark, suffering their only loss to, that’s right, Milwaukee in the East finals.
In 2007 San Antonio was the team that had a streak (13 victories) snapped at Milwaukee, 101-90. The Spurs didn’t meet that lottery-bound Bucks squad in the postseason but did win their most recent Larry O’Brien Trophy.
And then came last winter, when the fifth foe with a winning streak of 12 or more — the Mavericks, an even dozen — lost, this time in Dallas 103-99. We all know who popped champagne last June.
Eerie? Inexplicable? Or insurance for a championship?
The Miami Heat doesn’t have time to string together enough W’s before facing the Bucks on Jan. 22 — remember, it requires at least 12 — but Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and the rest do play at Milwaukee twice in February. We’re just sayin’…